6 Effective Arm Exercises With A Barbell

Photo of author
Last Updated On

You can use barbells in many different types of workouts. For example, there are a nice amount of arm exercises you can do with this equipment.

One important thing to note is that barbells are generally not ideal for arm workouts. This is because their starting weight is relatively high compared to how strong the muscles in this area typically are.

Many people will prefer one of the other arm exercises with weights.

That being said, if you are strong enough to do them, the movements below can still offer nice benefits.

These exercises will target arm muscles like your biceps, triceps, forearm grip muscles, and deltoids (shoulder). Barbell exercises for your back or chest are not included.

1. Standing barbell bicep curl

For standing barbell bicep curls you only need the bar and potentially weight plats if you are strong enough. Once you have these, take the following steps to do the exercise:

  1. Stand in front of the loaded barbell and put your hands on the bar with your hand palms facing forward/up.
  2. Stand up with the barbell in your hands. Let your arms hang down for now Keep your spine straight to play it safe.
  3. Raise the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion by folding your arms at the elbows. Keep your upper arms and the rest of your body in the same position.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell back to your waist until you are back in the position of step 2.

Standing bicep curls are a typical example of a barbell bicep exercise.

Many people are interested in training these front upper muscles at home or in the gym for their visual effects.

For this goal, you want to make sure you can do enough bicep curl sets and reps with the barbell. Even if you don’t have a lot of equipment it may be smarter to start with weight plate arm exercises.

2. Barbell lying tricep extension

This next barbell arm exercise requires a bit more equipment. More specifically, you want a good flat weight bench on top of the more standard barbell with weight plates.

When you have the equipment requirements, take the following steps to do a lying tricep extension with a barbell:

  1. Sit on a weight bench with a loaded barbell resting on your upper legs. Hold the barbell with an overhand grip (hand palms pointing down) and your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Kick the barbell back with your upper legs and lie down at the same time. Keep the barbell at chest height for now.
  3. Push the barbell up until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Tilt them back to the point where the next step can go smoothly.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell as far as comfortable behind your head by folding your arms at the elbows. Keep your wrists more or less straight and your upper arms in the same position.
  5. Raise the barbell back into the position of step 3 in a controlled motion by stretching your arms.

As their name implies, lying tricep extensions are a barbell exercise that targets your tricep muscles, the muscles in the back of your upper arms.

Lying down on a weight bench makes it easier to keep your upper arms and the rest of your body still.

Thanks to that, you can really focus on only engaging your tricep muscles which can be beneficial for your training progress.

One important thing to note is that you want to start with light weights in lying tricep extensions. A barbell is likely too heavy.

This is because you definitely don’t unexpectedly want your arm muscles to fatigue while the barbell is above your head.

3. Hand palms down barbell wrist curl

In theory, you don’t need any extra equipment to do barbell wrist curls. In practice, something like a weight bench can be helpful to keep the rest of your body still.

Take the following steps to do a hand palms down barbell wrist curl on a weight bench:

  1. Stand in front of the side of a weight bench with a barbell in your hands. Hold the barbell with an overhanded grip which means your hand palms point backward.
  2. Put your forearms on the bench so that your wrists have enough room to move. Let your hands with the barbell hang down as far as comfortable.
  3. Raise the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion by changing the angle of your wrists.

Getting big biceps and triceps are popular goals for people who consider arm exercises with a barbell.

That being said, you don’t want to forget about the muscles in your forearms either. By doing barbell wrist curls with the right resistance, you can strengthen these arm muscles in this area.

4. Reverse barbell curl

Reverse barbell curls may look similar to the first exercise but changing the position of your wrists can influence on what arm muscles you focus the most.

Before going into these differences, take the following steps to do a reverse barbell curl:

  1. Stand up straight with a (loaded) barbell in your hands. You hold the barbell overhanded so your hand palms are pointing backward.
  2. Raise the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion by folding your arms at the elbows. Keep your wrists more or less straight and your upper arms in the same position.
  3. Slowly lower the barbell so that you are back in the position of step 1.

While most people think about the biceps brachii when hearing the words bicep curls, there are other muscles in your upper arms and forearms that can help with this movement.

By pointing your hand palms down, you work your brachioradialis (a forearm muscle) and your brachioradialis (a deeper upper arm muscle) more and the biceps brachii less.

Whether you like the different muscle engagement of this barbell arm exercise depends on your training goals and personal preferences.

5. Close grip barbell bench press

To do a close grip barbell bench press you want additional equipment like a flat weight bench and preferably a barbell rack.

Take the following steps to do a close grip barbell bench press with these equipment options:

  1. Load the barbell in the rack with the desired amount of weight. Set it at a height where you can achieve the next step. Additionally, put the weight bench under the barbell so that you can comfortably follow the next steps.
  2. Lie down on the weight bench with your shoulder blades pulled back and down. Put your hands closer than shoulder-width apart on the barbell. At this point, your arms should be bent a bit.
  3. Unrack the barbell by pushing up the barbell and move it forward to above your chest.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell as far as comfortable. Keep your upper arms at 45 degrees or less to your sides.
  5. Push the barbell up again to the position of step 3.

Close grip barbell bench presses are a barbell exercise for your arms and chest.

By putting your hands close to each other, the movement works your triceps and front deltoids (shoulders) a lot harder and your chest a lot less.

At the same time, you will still engage this last muscle group a nice amount.

Keep in mind that you will be able to lift a lot less weight in the close grip variation. When in doubt about your capacities, you can start with light weights and build up from there.

6. Seated barbell shoulder press

You can do this next barbell exercise standing too but doing the shoulder presses seated will allow you to focus more on working your arm muscles as much as possible.

Take the following steps to do a seated barbell shoulder press:

  1. Get to a position where you sit down with a barbell at shoulder height. You hold the barbell with an overhanded grip. If you have a barbell rack, you can use this. Otherwise, you can get the barbell to the right height with a clean movement.
  2. Slowly push the barbell upward until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Make sure your upper arms point forward enough at the bottom of the movement. Additionally, you will have to tilt your head back when the barbell passes to avoid bumping it against your chin.
  3. Lower the barbell back to shoulder height in a controlled motion.

Shoulder presses are a classic example of a barbell exercise for your arms and shoulders.

More specifically, this movement mainly works your triceps, front deltoids, and middle deltoids.

One-handed barbell alternatives like dumbbells would focus a lot more on a variety of stabilizing muscles around your shoulders.

By using a barbell, you can work the muscles above with more weight.

Especially if you don’t have to worry about core engagement by doing a seated shoulder press with your back against a vertical bench.

FAQ

How do you train your arms with a barbell?

You train your arms with a barbell by using it in a way where your arm muscles can go through a large range of motion under tension. In simpler words, you do some of the exercises in this article with the right weight and repetitions.

Are barbells good for arms?

Barbells are not always good for arms because the starting weight of 45 pounds (20 kg) tends to be relatively high for the weaker muscles. At the same time, many people will still be able to get a good arm workout with a barbell setup.

Photo of author

Author:

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.